CrossFit Open: To Redo or not?

There is a frenzied debate over whether to redo CrossFit Open workouts. Today I was reading through a thread on Facebook and you had people pretty much shaming people who decided to repeat one of the Open workouts, with the logic of “You aren’t going to the CrossFit Games, so what’s the point”? Both sides started yelling back and forth and the CrossFit Games account even stepped in and joined the discussion. The answer is pretty obvious:

Redo the workouts if you want, don’t redo them if you don’t want. 

I have a history of redoing workouts, and I think that doing so has been extremely valuable for me and my development in CrossFit, so I’m going to talk about why I think it could be a good idea to redo these workouts.

Before I start, I’ll talk about some legitimate reasons not to redo Open workouts:

  • You really don’t need a reason. If you don’t want to redo the workout, don’t redo it. It’s completely normal not to redo the workouts. However you SHOULDN’T make other people feel bad who do want to redo the workout. It’s okay for something to be really important to other people, even if they aren’t going to make the CrossFit Games. On the flip side, you shouldn’t make other people feel bad if they don’t want to redo a workout. Sure maybe you really think they could have done better, but it’s okay not to care that much about a CrossFit competition.
  • If the workout is extremely taxing on your body and results in many days of soreness and fatigue, you should be careful about redoing it. There have been a few workouts like this for me. I have no interest in risking my health to redo an Open workout. However most of the workouts are no more intense than a workout we do during a normal week, so I’m putting myself at no risk by doing it again. The only thing that doing 15 minutes of rowing and wallballs is going to do for me is to make me a little bit more fit.

As we all know, in CrossFit you are doing pretty intense workouts that vary every day. It’s extremely rare that you’ll do the same exact thing within a week, or even within a few months. In general this is a good thing, but the CrossFit Open gives you a unique opportunity to do something that you don’t ever get to do the rest of the year: To do a workout, and then do it a few days later and learn whether there are certain pacing strategies that would greatly improve your performance. When you do a workout again so shortly after, every single thought that you had during the first attempt is fresh in your head. You remember when you felt tired, when you felt that maybe you could have pushed just a little harder. Now you get to see if maybe, just maybe, you are capable of more than you showed.

These pacing strategies don’t just affect the one Open Workout you are redoing. They can affect every other workout you do for the rest of the year. It’s not uncommon that I’ll see a workout and think to myself “Based on what I learned by redoing 18.2, I know I should probably use XYZ strategy”

In my opinion, redoing the workouts in the CrossFit Open fits into the CrossFit ethos of constantly varied and intense movement. The variance this time is we are actually going to do the same workout shortly after originally doing it, which is something we almost never do. There are a lot of people who act like it’s completely insane to do a workout, and then do it again two days later. Aren’t there lots of people who basically run 3 miles a day every day? There is nothing at all weird or strange about doing the same workout again, it’s just not what CrossFitters are typically used to. What’s weird is acting like exercising in the same way that you did a few days ago is weird.

In the first two Open workouts of 2019 I have repeated and in both cases have learned something extremely valuable, either about pacing or about myself.

CrossFit Open 19.2 was:

Beginning on an 8-minute clock, complete as many reps as possible of:
25 toes-to-bars
50 double-unders
15 squat cleans, 135 lb.
25 toes-to-bars
50 double-unders
13 squat cleans, 185 lb.
If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 toes-to-bars
50 double-unders
11 squat cleans, 225 lb.

followed by some other crap I have no chance to get to.

In 2016 I did this workout a few times and finished with 2 cleans at 185. In 2018 we did it in a regular class and I was able to get 6 cleans at 185. I was aiming this year to at least get 6 cleans again, and hopefully be able to do better. I’m 40 years old now, and I’m not doing any specialized training other than going to daily CrossFit classes, so I don’t beat myself up too much if my times just stay the same 🙂

Here was my strategy for each of my attempts:

Attempt 1:

  • Start with a big set of T2B, then just do a bunch of quick singles and doubles to get to 25
  • Do 30-35 double unders, rest 10 seconds to get your heart rate down, and then do 15-20 double unders
  •  Do the 135 squat cleans quickly. Do a rep, drop it, pick it up again right away
  • On the next set of T2B do whatever you can to survive. Try to do a big set, and then once you feel yourself falling apart, immediately switch to fast singles
  • Do 30-35 double unders, rest 10 seconds, and then do the last 15-20.
  • Get to the 185 lb cleans and pray

With the above strategy I got to the 185 lb cleans at 6:35. The first round of T2B were a total mess. I did 15 reps, then some random mishmash of singles and doubles. The 135 lb cleans went well at first, but then I started massively slowing down, and sometimes taking 6-7 seconds in between reps on the later ones. The next set of T2B was a mess, I did 5 reps, and then started going to singles and doubles right away. I ended up finishing with 6 cleans, tying my score from 2018. I was relatively satisfied with my score. I know I’m not the most amazing athlete in the world, and six cleans is pretty respectable.

However I started to think something was really amiss when I screwed around later in the day and tried a few sets of 5 T2B, followed by 5 second rest. It seemed like I got through 15 and still had a lot of energy to burn. I felt calm and relaxed, and I thought that maybe this is a strategy I should try. Will it work or not? Who knows. But if it does work, it could completely change how I approach future T2B workouts.

Here was the strategy in my second attempt:

  • Do sets of 5 T2B with 5 second rest in between sets
  • Do 30-35 double unders, rest 10 seconds to get your heart rate down, and then do 15-20 double unders
  • Do singles on the 135 squat cleans, and do a strict 3 second count before each attempt
  • Do sets of 5 T2B with 7-8 second rest between sets for as long as I can
  • Do 30-35 double unders, rest 10 seconds to get your heart rate down, and then do 15-20 double unders
  • Get to the 185 lb squat cleans and pray
  • Minimize all transition time between stations

The difference between this strategy and the first one was simply massive. I felt so much better, and had a tiebreak time of 5:49, over 45 seconds faster, as though just tinkering with a few things transformed me into someone who was much more fit.

The T2B felt great. I managed to get a clean three sets of 5 in on the second round, before I had to resort to singles and doubles. The 135 lb squat cleans were smooth and consistent with the set 3 second break. I managed to hit 10 cleans at 185 lbs in the 2ish minutes I had remaining, which left me 3 cleans away from the next round and a massively improved score from my first attempt. One other note…I did the first set of dubs unbroken, and it didn’t seem to faze me much. However on the second set I intentionally stopped around rep 37 and rested ten seconds. In retrospect this seemed unnecessary.

I decided I really wanted to get to the third round, and so I took a third attempt at the workout, to see if there were any more things I could learn about myself. One thing I’d like to mention is I really didn’t want to do this workout again. Everything was telling me that the unpleasantness of going through this again just wasn’t necessary. I also had a super busy day and could have made lots of excuses not to do it. But that’s usually a good sign that I should do it and so I found a way to fit it in. Here was my plan for attempt 3:

  • Do sets of 5 T2B with 5 second rest in between sets
  • Unbroken double unders
  • Do singles on the 135 squat cleans, and do a strict 3 second count before each attempt
  • Do sets of 5 T2B with 5 second rest in between sets. After my third set of T2B, dig deep to push for a few bigger sets so I don’t have to immediately resort to singles and doubles, as they are pretty frantic and can mess up your heart rate, and will waste precious time on the clock.
  • Unbroken double unders
  • Fight harder on the 185 lb cleans
  • Minimize all transition time between stations

Once again everything worked perfectly. It turned out the rest on the double unders was completely unnecessary. Although I did trip once each round, but picked things back up quickly in both cases. The second round of T2B was MUCH smoother because I kind of knew where I would run into trouble and was mentally prepared to fight through that moment. I got to the cleans this time with a tiebreak time of 5:25, a full 25 seconds faster than my second attempt and about 1:15! faster than my first attempt.

I wish I could say the story had a happy ending, but I only managed 11 cleans, and still came up short on the third round. But I learned so much by redoing this workout multiple times. The difference between getting tiebreak times of 6:35, 5:49 and 5:25 is enormous and demonstrates a completely different level of fitness (and obviously I didn’t magically get more fit in 3 days). I learned that:

  • Sets of 5 with 5 second rest on T2B are manageable for a long time for me, and keep me calm and my heart rate down. Meanwhile larger sets mess me up a lot.
  • I was able to immediately go to the set of 5 for the T2B after my 135 lb squat cleans in my second attempt, because the set was so manageable and my heart rate was under control. My first attempt I took like a full ten second rest before jumping onto the bar. Using this type of pacing strategy in the future could allow me quicker transitions, which might eliminate any time I lose from not doing large unbroken sets.
  • In a workout like this, the temptation to break the double unders is strong, but I should just try to do them unbroken. The breaks in between the squat cleans, and the breaks you’ll get on the T2B will help you to recover, and you shouldn’t waste ten seconds just staring at the rope
  • I still have to figure out a way to fight through doing moderately heavy loads under time pressure. I do believe I should finish the cleans in the amount of time that I had, but my body just wouldn’t go to pick up the bar. This is something to think about as a focus in future WOD’s. I think that if I were to redo this workout, I’d give myself a strict count on when to do each clean, based on the assumption that I’ll have about 150 seconds to complete the cleans (so that gives me something like 11-12 seconds per clean)

Ideally I’d be able to perform the optimal strategy in my first run through the workout, but it’s hard to know what that strategy is without having done tests like this first.

So yeah, I could have just not done this workout a few times, but I’d be worse at CrossFit for it and I’d understand a lot less about myself and my athletic abilities.

Fixing Chess

Chess is broken. A game can be broken and still be popular, entertaining and beautiful. Chess is still a beautiful game, and is even growing in popularity. But that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect or that it doesn’t need fixing. What we are doing to this game by refusing to make any changes is terrible.

Every major video game in the world does regular “balance changes”. These are just standard changes that are made to the game to make it more interesting or fix it because something about it is broken. There are so many things that are not ideal about chess, that the chess community refuses to address due to adherence for tradition, lineage and an obsession with sitting in the same spot for 6 hours.

Magnus Carlsen himself, the World Champion of Chess and number 1 player in the world, even admits it in his latest interview. He says “In general it’s good to incorporate more rapid and blitz in the world championship because to some extent it is a purer form of chess because preparation plays less of a role”.

DtPd_TZXQAA80wd

Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

I have lost all patience with the diehard “never change anything about chess” crowd. They are dinosaurs and are making a mockery of what a game should be

What are the main problems with chess:

  1. The draw rate is absurdly high at the top level. Do I have to see another article at some major super tournament where the author writes a glee filled headline because a few games actually ended in wins? A perfectly designed game should not be a tie as frequently as chess is and this is super obvious. The drawing margin is too high, and you can get away with too many mistakes and still draw, especially with the White pieces. Yes some of the draws were interesting, but how about create a format where it’s not a draw every single time? Maybe that would be even more interesting!
  2. Computers have taken a lot of the life out of the game. Chess players are no longer willing to play any risky looking moves in the opening, because they fear their opponent’s computer preparation. They know that it will be absolutely perfect and that they will stand no chance if they walk into home prep in a complicated position. This could be seen in Game 2 of the most recent World Championship match, in which Magnus intentionally avoided what looked to be the critical line. He knew it was the critical line, but he also knew that Fabiano would know everything about it. Magnus didn’t want to play against a computer, so he played a tamer line and was satisfied to just play for equality.
  3. The games are too long. The top players play exceptionally well in faster time control games. Give them a time control of 90+30 and they will still play near 2800 level. But for some reason we have to add an extra two hours so that maybe they will play at 2820-2830. It’s so ridiculous and a complete misuse of time and resources. You have to be so stuck in the past to think that a three or four hour chess game just isn’t enough, and that it simply must be six hours. The extra benefit is that when the time controls are faster, even just slightly faster than they are now, people win more frequently.
  4. There are almost no more memorable games in World Championship Matches. We have grown up studying the great games in the matches with Capablanca vs Alekhine, Botvinink vs Tal or Kasparov vs Karpov. Tell me one memorable game from the last 6 World Championship Matches? They will basically all be forgotten. You can pretend that Carlsen’s fortress defense from Game 6 will be remembered, but it won’t. Actually I take it back…..there was one extremely iconic moment from a recent World Championship Match that I don’t think will be forgotten easily. It’s when Carlsen played the beautiful 50. Qh6!! to win the title against Karjakin. It just so happens that came from a rapid game! Once rapid chess starts getting taken more seriously, we will see that the games and ideas are so much more beautiful and much more digestible to 99%+ of the chess audience. Players will once again be able to go for speculative sacrifices against the best opponents in the world.
  5. The current format is not likely to determine who the best chessplayer is! Because classical games end in draws so frequently, even if you increase the match length to 24 games, you are often going to see someone win the match with 2 wins to 1 and 21 draws. This does very little to differentiate who is actually the better player. Sticking to the low number of games, slow time control format, increases the chance that the weaker chess player will win.

I have already written my solution in a previous blog but I’ll reiterate it one more time, with a small change, because I do think it’s the perfect balance of retaining that classical chess tradition, while not allowing all of the life to get sucked out of the game:

This is how a chess game would work:

You play one game at 90 minutes plus a 20 second increment. The winner gets 10 points the loser gets 0

If that game is drawn you reverse colors and play one game at 20 minutes plus a 10 second increment. The winner gets 7 points and the loser gets 3

If that game is drawn you keep the same colors as the rapid game and play one game at 5 minutes plus a 3 second increment. The winner gets 6 points and the loser gets 4. If this game is drawn, both players get 5 points.

A perfect mix of Classical, Rapid and Blitz.  The Classical game is still worth 5 times as much as the blitz game. The Classical game is worth 2.5 times as much as the rapid game. The rapid game is worth 2 times as much as the blitz game. But all the games count, and all forms of chess count. Every single player will need to be equally versed at Classical, Rapid and Blitz chess to consider themselves the best in the world.

The best overall chess player will almost always win handily with such a format. If it’s truly very close, then we will see some really tight and exciting matches. Right now everyone is so good at the top and the draw rate is so high, that most matches with absurdly long time controls are going to end with the majority draws and maybe one or two wins sprinkled in.

I think that Fischer Random is also a great idea, but there is something beautiful about the starting position in chess, so I decided to retain that chess tradition in favor of simply speeding up the time controls. But Fischer Random has the added benefit that Computer Preparation is rendered almost meaningless.

The chess community needs to wake up. The World Championship was just all draws. The one before it was 10 out of 12 draws.  The idea of making the match even longer so that eventually someone wins is ridiculous. Where exactly were players avoiding risks? You could say it was Carlsen in Game 12, but I believe he only got that position because Caruana was so hell bent on trying to win and avoid the rapid tiebreak. This is all so stupid and it’s so frustrating to be part of a community who can’t see it.

Everyone loves to resist change, and they eventually get left in the dust because of it.

 

 

 

 

How to Make Chess More Exciting!

Good news everyone! I’ve finally figured out the ultimate solution to fix chess.

A lot of people are complaining about the World Championship Match right now, mainly due to the number of draws and the feeling that sometimes the players are avoiding risk. I honestly don’t completely agree that it’s so bad, and I think that:

  • There have been some really exciting moments both on the board (Game 1), and off the board (Magnus’s funny comments in press conferences, the whole video controversy and etc)
  • I think also that in a match this long someone will eventually win, and the mounting tension of draw after draw will make it that much more dramatic when it does happen.

But despite my feelings that things are okay, I also believe they could be much better. And it’s also clear that as time goes on these problems are only going to get worse and worse. Change is inevitable, it’s just a matter of time until we all realize it.

Another thing that fixed this idea in my mind was something that Hikaru Nakamura said. He said he’s rooting for Magnus because “It doesn’t feel right to him that the world champion shouldn’t be someone who’s not also one of the best at rapid and blitz chess”

What is my solution that will fix EVERYTHING? Simple:

You play a classical chess game. It should be sped up SLIGHTLY compared to the normal time control, probably by removing a half hour from each clock, and slightly speeding up the following time controls.

If you win this game, you get 5 points. If you lose you get 0

If the game is drawn, you reverse colors and play a rapid game. If you win the rapid game you get 4 points. If you lose the rapid game you get 1 point.

If the rapid game is drawn you keep the same colors you had in the rapid game and play a blitz game. If you win the blitz game you get 3 points, if you lose you get 2 points and if you draw you both get 2.5 points. 

Why do I love this solution?

  1. Someone will win most of the time, which is MUCH more exciting and interesting for fans of chess
  2. It requires players to be skilled at all types of chess in order to be considered the best in the world
  3. It helps negate white’s advantage a bit because in the rapid and blitz game, the player with black in the classical game will have the white pieces.
  4. It still puts a high emphasis on classical chess. If you win the blitz portion the first four games you’d have a lead of 12-8. That would be erased in one game if your opponent won the next classical game.

This works in head to head matches and also in round robin tournaments. Literally everything will be immediately more exciting, without massively downgrading the quality of the classical game.

What are the downsides?

  • In order to make sure there is time for the rapid and blitz portions of play, we will have to speed up the time control a little bit. I’m not sure the best way to do it. One idea could be to lower the increment from 30 seconds to 15 seconds, while also removing a little bit of time from the clock (for example 90 minutes to start with a 15 second increment).
  • You may think that blitz and rapid chess is an abomination and should have no business being involved in any serious chess tournament. I happen to strongly disagree.

I honestly can’t think of any other downsides but I’m sure the lovely people of the Internet will point them out for me in the most polite way possible!

 

 

Stop Telling Me What to Do

The number one thing that gets my bullshit alarm to go off is when someone gives unsolicited advice, as though they are some kind of spiritual or intellectual life guru.

shhh

There are a lot of things I have opinions on, but once I start taking these opinions and voicing them in “advice” form, I become totally full of shit. Here are a few examples:

  • Before a chess game you should clear your mind and go for a walk instead of playing a video game or preparing for your opponent up to five minutes before the round.
  • If you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, don’t go to the gym.
  • When you travel, XYZ is a must see, you can’t miss it!!!
  • Put down your cell phone and enjoy the moment.

Do I agree with the above? Mostly no. I think that before a chess game everyone is completely different, and totally different routines will work depending on who you are.  But there are tons of people telling you exactly what you should and shouldn’t do right before a game.

I do think that you should generally skip working out if you didn’t sleep well, but often a 20 minute nap will rejuvenate you enough to make exercise worthwhile again. And for some people who have kids and a busy schedule and can literally never get enough sleep, I sure don’t suggest that they never work out.

I also want to strangle anyone who tells me I “have to see” anything in another country. Unless you know me unbelievably well, you have no idea what I have to see.

Also I can’t stand the anti technology commentary. I think it’s so overblown to the point of absurdity. When I’m alone I’m on my phone constantly, and I think it greatly improves my quality of life. I get to listen to music and dance down the street, and it makes me feel more connected no matter where I am.

phone

What am I trying to say exactly? When you give advice, most of the time, there should be some level of uncertainty.

I am a very strong chess player compared to the general population of chess players, however except for the most basic information there is, I don’t know if there is any advice I can give and be certain that what I’m saying is true.

It makes me sound really wishy washy sometimes, but I believe it’s more intellectually honest than stating something as a fact, when I don’t believe it is one.

I mean I can look at a chess position, and know that I believe white is slightly better, but I don’t believe it enough to say “White is slightly better”. I can say “I believe White is slightly better because of X, Y and Z”, but often I’m not certain in my belief. However players about the same level as me, or weaker, will confidently state things in public that I’m totally unsure about. How can this be? I know that they basically don’t understand anything, so why do they behave like they do?

Do I know the best way to study chess? Nope, I have no clue! I believe it’s different for everyone. The only thing I know is that studying one hour a day probably isn’t enough if you want to be World Champion. But for most people, I couldn’t even tell you if studying 2 hours a day is better than studying 6 hours a day. One is more sustainable, and one might lead to burnout. Probably the six hours is better, but it’s not an automatic answer.

Do I know what chess books you should read? I have some opinions, but when people speak like “You MUST read this book”…..well I literally believe that about no books. There are books I like and you can read them if you want, but it won’t kill you if you never look at it.

In CrossFit you see a lot of people online just throw out random advice as though it’s gospel. Many of them are just randos who have no idea what they are talking about. Sometimes they are coaches and have some knowledge, although even then I don’t think they do a great job of realizing that everyone is wildly different.

I think I’m pretty decent at CrossFit, but I basically don’t know anything. I know maybe a few strategy ideas in WODs, but in almost all cases they are athlete dependent. I do know that you probably shouldn’t row too hard in most WODs, but there are definitely lots of exceptions to that!

One thing that a lot of CrossFit affiliates like to preach is this militant anti-sugar mindset. I have sugar sometimes, and I think it’s TOTALLY fine to have sugar in moderation.I will throw up the next time someone acts like I’m going to die because I drink one coke. But who knows, maybe I’ll die of some donut related disease sometime soon and the psycho anti-sugar people will be proven right?

COKEDEATH

If you are going to travel, do I know exactly what you should do? Not unless you tell me “hey this is a problem can you help me with it?”. Then I can give some advice that might be smart. But if you are just some random traveler and I don’t know much about you, I have no idea what to tell you. I can tell you what was interesting to me, but I’d never presume that my opinion on something was absolutely correct.

Every travel article makes me want to smash my computer. I mean I literally don’t give a crap about almost every major tourist attraction, and that includes the Sagrada Familia, which everyone tells you that you’ll probably die if you don’t go to see it. I’ve been there and I really just don’t care about it at all. It made no impact on me whatsoever, except for “why am I waiting in a line to see a church?”.

LONGLINE

Do I know what you should do with your money, or your time, or your love life? I maybe have some opinions, but that’s all they are.

The Internet seems full of “gurus”, who want to give you spiritual, intellectual, or financial advice on anything. Anyone who tweets advice for no reason I figure is either pompous, a charlatan or an idiot.

Now I’m aware I probably do this from time to time, especially in an offhand way with friends. But I will never make a tweet saying “Do this, spend more energy on this, focus more on that, blah blah blah”.

So what am I saying? Just phrase things with more uncertainty. If you want to post some quote for how someone should live their life…be like “hey I read this and it resonated with me”, instead of “You should meditate for 30 minutes every day in order to achieve the maximum inner harmony” or whatever bullshit everyone is peddling.

meditate

 

Wtf am I doing?

Two days ago I booked a one way ticket to Seoul, South Korea.

I have no idea why I did it. I love traveling but It’s also really scary. Im traveling across the world to a place where I don’t speak the language, don’t know anyone and have no plans. The whole idea fills me with anxiety.  

It would be so much easier to just come home. I love it at home. I love my wife. I love my friends. Every day I get to wake up and do things I love, see people I love, workout, and of course go to Chipotle.

But instead I’m going to Seoul, probably Tokyo after, and then back home in a few weeks. And I’m doing that because I know if I don’t do it now, while I’m already in San Francisco and closer to Asia, that I’ll always find excuses not to.

So while I’m super nervous, I know it’ll be fun and that I’ll have a good time, because I always do. It helps that I’m mostly comfortable being alone for long periods of time, but I also use a few ways to meet people while traveling that have worked well for me in the past.

I’ve already started bombarding everyone in Seoul on the site couchsurfing.org. I’m not trying to stay in anyone’s house but I’m just looking for local people to meet up. I’m not amazing at meeting people organically, and it’s especially harder when you don’t speak the language, so couchsurfing is great for me. I’ve made a ton of friends there so far, and looking forward to meeting more.

It takes a lot of work though, because you may have to write a lot of people to guarantee that someone will meet up. People are busy and have their own lives, so I may have to write well over a dozen people.

Another good strategy is checking out the Couchsurfing meetups. I went to one of them in L.A. and it was really fun and I met lots of cool people. 

Meetup.com is another site I may use. I haven’t used it much while traveling in the past, but I may have to get more creative on this trip.

It also helps that I feel at home whenever I drop in to a CrossFit gym. Everyone at CrossFit is really friendly and it helps me get some guaranteed human contact every day. Also I get to stay in shape at the same time!

One more thing I do when I travel is I’m very active on social media and chat to my friends at home. It sounds weird because you’d imagine that when you travel you shouldn’t be doing as much of that, but really I have a full day every day to do whatever I want. With my style of traveling there’s always a lot of down time and it helps me to feel connected. 

I also text while I walk. Like I’ll just wander around and if someone texts me I stop and text back, or maybe I check twitter at one corner, check Instagram at the next corner and etc. The travel snobs will tell you there’s something wrong with this, but it makes me really happy.

Why am I sharing this? I know it’s daunting to travel on your own. I can’t even believe that in a few hours I’m going to be halfway across the world with no idea what to do. Maybe something I’m writing will resonate with others, because I don’t think it’s normal advice. At least I’ve never seen a travel blog that encourages spending lots of time texting your friends.

It feels good to turn my world upside down every now and then. It’s supposed to be scary and make me feel vulnerable. These are feelings I like to keep feeling from time to time, and this is the best way I know how. Maybe for other people it’s not such a big deal to just go to another country on their own, but it’s still tough for me.

Lastly if anyone who reads this knows some cool people in Seoul/Tokyo (or anywhere in Asia for that matter, as my plans are still totally flexible), please let me know! Oh yeah, that’s the other way I meet people when I travel: I write blogs begging people to introduce me to their cool friends.

Can We Please Fix the Tiebreak Situation at the Candidates?

The tiebreaks at the Candidates Tournament are ludicrous, although I’m surprised to admit that it’s not as ludicrous at it seems at first glance.

It’s absurd to determine who will challenge for the World Championship due to Most Wins, or any other tiebreak system in a Round Robin.

The only reasonable way to break a tie in an event of this magnitude is to play a tiebreak match for it.

I could easily end the blog here, and the majority of the chess playing community would agree with me. However it’s not quite as simple as it seems.

What does it mean that there is no tiebreak after tomorrow’s games? It means that these are going to be the most intense classical chess games that you’ve ever seen

Karjakin, Mamedyarov and Caruana are going to be fighting like wild animals in a classical game, because there is no chance for any of them to coast to a tie and aim to win a tiebreak match. This means that the audience is going to be treated to the most dramatic day of chess that we’ve seen since at least 2016. If a tie resulted in a tiebreaker match, you would be likely to see more conservative play among the leaders at almost every point throughout the tournament.

The key point is: By removing any tiebreak match, and instead using a tiebreaker, even if it is a flawed tiebreaker, the classical chess play becomes much more exciting. 

This is a win for fans, but at the same time we are talking about a very serious topic. We are talking about who will go on to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Chess Championship. It’s not enough that it’s exciting, but it also has to be both fair and logical. It is fair as all players play by the same rules, but it is not logical. There is no real reason why someone with more wins should qualify over someone who has the same score. There is certainly no logical reason why a Sonnenborn-Berger score should have any effect at all.

Fortunately I have the perfect solution, and one that I believe has been proposed before, but absolutely should be a staple for all future Candidates Tournaments.

The tiebreak should take place before the first round!

The above system is used in some tournaments to determine the draw, such as who gets the extra white and which pairing numbers and etc. But in this case it should be used as the tiebreak.

For example, you could have a one day round robin tournament with a time control of 15+2, or you could even make it a double round robin that takes place over two days. The winner of this event wins on all ties, the second place finisher wins on all ties against lower placed players and etc. In fact with this format, the entire field would effectively start the Candidates a half point behind the winner of the rapid tiebreak tournament.

This means that everyone will be playing catch up from the very start, resulting in a clear cut standing in every round. Whenever there is a tie at the top of the crosstable, you will always know who is ahead based on their performance in the rapid tournament. It’s simple for fans and adds another day or two of exciting chess for everyone to enjoy.

This is a much better system than the current one because:

  1. It ensures the classical chess that takes place is maximally exciting, because seven of the eight players will always be clearly behind the leader.
  2. It’s fair to all players
  3. It’s logical, unlike our current system. The players who win on tiebreaks will have clearly earned the right to their victory.

This is the second most important event in chess and the idea of what to do on a tie needs to be taken more seriously, instead of the lazy solution that is currently being used.

 

How to Defeat Aging

Whenever anyone tells you that you’re going to get worse at something as you get older, it’s bullshit.

I know that sounds simplistic, but for the most part it’s true. Let me explain why:

We are used to seeing famous superstar athletes get worse as they age. Eventually their skills erode to the point where they retire. This happens to everyone, whether it’s Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Roger Federer. For some athletes it happens a little earlier, and for some it’s a bit later, but it’s usually sometime around the age of 35-40.

The same thing happens in chess. Sometime around the age of 40-45, players seem to lose a step. There are exceptions of course, Vishy Anand has been killing it lately, but for the most part this is true. Even in his case it would be true, as while he’s still insanely good, he’s gone from the World Champion and a fixture in the World Top 3, to having to fight to stay in the top 10.

The above seems to disprove everything I’ve said about aging. I’ve just given you some clear cut examples of athletes and sportsmen who aged, and whose skills degraded as a result of their age.

Why is all of it bullshit? The reason that you can get better at ANYTHING is because you are probably not a world class athlete.

I can improve at literally anything. I’m currently 39, and by the time I’m 45, I could be better at any single thing I want to, if I put the energy towards it.

I could be better at chess, all I have to do is work harder. The reason Anand’s skills degrade a little bit is because he has already worked as hard and intelligently as any human can possibly work at chess. Therefore the only thing left is that age will slow him down very slightly. He has nothing left of himself to give. Almost none of us have tapped that much of our potential in any field, and therefore we can still improve.

I’ve spent the last few years studying very little chess. If I wanted to gain 50-100 points of strength in chess, I’d just have to intelligently devote hours every day to that goal. Maybe if I was younger it would be easier, but I could still do it if I really wanted to.

The same thing is true in athletics. I am in the best shape of my life at 39 years old, and I am sure that if I wanted, I could be in even better shape at 45. While I owe CrossFit for my current athletic ability, I have not taken it so seriously that I have reached my peak potential.

crossfit1

If I wanted to get stronger and more fit, I would just have to work harder. My age might mean that I have to work a little bit harder than if I was 25, but there is absolutely no doubt that I could be better in five years than I am now.

I write this because I see age used as an excuse a lot of the time. I don’t want to speak for people who are significantly older than me, because I don’t have that life experience yet. But I know that at this point, nothing stands in the way of improvement. I could learn languages, I could get better at chess and I could literally learn anything in the world and get much better at it.

For some people it may be that they just don’t have the time to devote to improvement due to work and other commitments, or they could have suffered a major injury that holds them back. But it’s almost certainly not their age stopping them, and it’s not what’s stopping me. When I don’t improve at something it’s always that I don’t want it bad enough.

Unless you are an elite athlete or performer, and have given nearly everything you could have to your art for many years, you can get better at anything if you want it badly enough.